[Federal Register: March 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 42)]
[Page 9921-9923]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2010-N027; 80221-1112-0000-F2]

San Diego County Water Authority Natural Communities Conservation 
Program/Habitat Conservation Plan, San Diego and Riverside Counties, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft environmental impact report/
environmental impact statement, receipt of incidental take permit 
application, and notice of public meetings.


SUMMARY: The San Diego County Water Authority (Water Authority/
Applicant) has applied to us, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Applicant is requesting a permit to 
incidentally take 37 animal species and seeking assurances for 27 plant 
species (including 19 Federally listed species) during the term of the 
proposed 55-year permit. The permit is needed to authorize take of 
listed animal species due to construction, operations, and maintenance 
activities in the approximately 992,000-acre (401,450-hectare) Plan 
Area in western San Diego County and south-central Riverside County, 
California. We are requesting public comment on the Draft Water 
Authority Natural Communities Conservation Program/Habitat Conservation 
Plan (NCCP/HCP), Draft Implementing Agreement, and Draft

[[Page 9922]]

Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).
    We have prepared the Draft EIS, which is the Federal portion of the 
Draft EIR/EIS, to analyze the impacts of issuing an incidental take 
permit based on the Water Authority's proposed NCCP/HCP. The Draft EIR 
portion of the joint document was prepared by the Water Authority in 
compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The analyses 
provided in the Draft EIR/EIS are intended to inform the public of the 
proposed action (i.e., permit issuance), alternatives, and associated 
impacts; address public comments received during the scoping period for 
the Draft EIR/EIS; disclose the direct, indirect, and cumulative 
environmental effects of the proposed action and each of the 
alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources 
that would result from implementation of the proposed action.

DATES: Please send written comments on or before June 2, 2010.
    Two public meetings have been scheduled for the EIR, and we will 
accept comments for the EIS at these meetings. These public meetings 
will be held on the following dates:
    1. March 17, 2010, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Escondido, CA.
    2. March 18, 2010, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., San Diego CA.

ADDRESSES: Please send written comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011. You may 
also submit comments by facsimile to (760) 431-5902.
    Information and comments related specifically to the draft EIR and 
the California Environmental Quality Act should be submitted to Mr. 
Bill Tippets, San Diego County Water Authority, 4677 Overland Avenue, 
San Diego, CA 92123.
    The public meeting locations are:
    1. Escondido: Escondido City Hall, Mitchell Room, 201 North 
Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025.
    2. Kearney Mesa: San Diego County Water Authority, 4677 Overland 
Avenue, San Diego, CA 92123.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen A. Goebel, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office address above; 
telephone (760) 431-9440.


Availability of Documents

    Documents available for public review include the Water Authority's 
permit application, the Public Review Draft NCCP/HCP and Appendices, 
the accompanying Draft Implementing Agreement, and the Draft EIR/EIS.
    For copies of the documents, please contact the Service by 
telephone at (760) 431-9440, or by letter to the Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Copies of the 
Draft Water Authority NCCP/HCP, Draft EIR/EIS, and Draft Implementing 
Agreement also are available for public review, by appointment, during 
regular business hours, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office or at 
the San Diego County Water Authority Office (4677 Overland Avenue, San 
Diego, California 92123). Copies are also available for viewing in 
select San Diego County and Riverside County public libraries (listed 
below) and at the Water Authority's Web site: http://www.sdcwa.org/.
    1. Carlsbad Public Library--Reference Desk. 1775 Dove Lane, 
Carlsbad, CA 92009.
    2. Chula Vista Public Library--Reference Desk. 365 F Street, Chula 
Vista, CA 91910.
    3. Escondido Public Library--Reference Desk. 239 S. Kalmia Street, 
Escondido, CA 92025.
    4. Lakeside Public Library--Reference Desk. 9839 Vine Street, 
Lakeside, CA 92040.
    5. Mission Valley Branch Library--Reference Desk. 2123 Fento 
Parkway, San Diego, CA 92108.
    6. San Diego Public Library--Reference Desk. 820 E Street, San 
Diego, CA 92101.
    7. Temecula Public Library--Reference Desk. 30600 Pauba Road, 
Temecula, CA 92592.


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 
16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species Federally listed as endangered or 
threatened. Take of Federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under 
the Act as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect listed species, or attempt to engage in such 
conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). ``Harm'' includes significant habitat 
modification or degradation that actually kills or injures listed 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c)). Under 
limited circumstances, we may issue permits to authorize incidental 
take, which is defined under the Act as take that is incidental to, and 
not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. Although take of plant 
species is not prohibited under the Act, and therefore cannot be 
authorized under an incidental take permit, plant species are proposed 
to be included on the permit in recognition of the conservation 
benefits provided to them under the NCCP/HCP. Regulations governing 
incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species are found 
in 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively. All species included on the 
incidental take permit, if issued, would receive assurances under the 
Service's ``No Surprises'' regulation (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 
    The Applicant seeks incidental take authorization for 37 animal 
species and assurances for 27 plant species. Collectively the 64 listed 
and unlisted species are referred to as ``Covered Species'' by the 
NCCP/HCP and include 27 plant species (6 endangered, 5 threatened, and 
16 unlisted); 5 invertebrate species (3 endangered and 2 unlisted); 2 
amphibian species (1 endangered and 1 unlisted); 9 reptile species (all 
unlisted); 13 bird species (2 endangered, 1 threatened, and 10 
unlisted); and 8 mammal species (1 endangered and 7 unlisted). The 
permit would provide take authorization for all animal species and 
assurances for all plant species identified by the NCCP/HCP as 
``Covered Species.'' Take authorized for listed covered animal species 
would be effective upon permit issuance. For currently unlisted covered 
animal species, take authorization would become effective concurrent 
with listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the 
permit term.
    The proposed permit would include the following eight Federally 
listed animal species: Stephens' kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi; 
endangered), least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus; endangered), 
coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica; 
threatented), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii 
extimus; endangered), arroyo toad (Anaxyrus (=Bufo) californicus; 
endangered), Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino; 
endangered), Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni; 
endangered), and San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegoensis; 
endangered). The proposed permit would include assurances for the 
following 11 Federally listed plant species: Encinitas baccharis 
(Baccharis vanessae; threatened), Munz's onion (Allium munzii; 
endangered), Otay mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiuscula; endangered), Otay 
tarplant (Deinandra conjugens; threatened), San Diego ambrosia 
(Ambrosia pumila; endangered), San Diego button-celery (Eryngium 
aristulatum var. parishii;

[[Page 9923]]

endangered), San Diego mesa mint (Pogogyne abramsii; endangered), San 
Diego thorn-mint (Acanthomintha ilicifolia; threatened), spreading 
navarretia (Navarretia fossalis; threatened), thread-leaved brodiaea 
(Brodiaea filifolia; threatened), and willowy monardella (Monardella 
viminea; endangered). See the Draft EIR/EIS and NCCP/HCP for 
information on unlisted species proposed for coverage under the permit.
    The Draft Water Authority NCCP/HCP is intended to protect and 
sustain viable populations of native plant and animal species and their 
habitats in perpetuity through avoidance, minimization, and mitigation 
measures, including purchase of lands for permanent conservation and 
use of mitigation credits in mitigation banks previously established to 
address mitigation requirements associated with the proposed NCCP/HCP. 
The proposed NCCP/HCP and permit would accommodate the Water 
Authority's ongoing operations and maintenance requirements, future 
facility upgrades, and construction of new facilities that are needed 
to maintain a safe, reliable water source to its member agencies and 
the San Diego region.
    The Water Authority's NCCP/HCP Plan Area encompasses approximately 
992,000 acres (401,450 hectares) in western San Diego County and the 
vicinity of Lake Skinner in south-central Riverside County. The NCCP/
HCP is intended to function independently of other HCPs within the San 
Diego region (e.g., San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Plan [MSCP] 
and its associated subarea plans, and Western Riverside County's 
Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan [MSHCP]).
    As described in the Draft NCCP/HCP and the Draft EIR/EIS, the 
proposed NCCP/HCP would provide protection measures for species on 
Water Authority property and easements, in part by using available 
mitigation credits from mitigation banks previously established or in 
planning by the Water Authority as habitat management areas (HMAs). 
Covered activities, including planned and future projects, are 
estimated to impact up to 373 acres (151 hectares) of habitat for 
Covered Species that will require mitigation over the 55-year term of 
the Permit. When on-site mitigation for permanent impacts is not 
feasible, available mitigation credits would be debited from HMAs in 
accordance with in-kind mitigation ratios identified in the NCCP/HCP. 
The Water Authority has established five HMAs (including three upland 
properties and two wetland creation properties) totaling 1,920 acres 
(775 hectares) and has set up endowments for long-term management of 
these areas. Of these acres, approximately 700 acres (283 hectares) 
would be available as credits to mitigate for project impacts to 
Covered Species. Costs associated with the NCCP/HCP would be funded as 
a capital cost under the Water Authority Capital Improvement Program's 
(CIP) Mitigation Program or within individually approved CIP project 
budgets, and/or the annual operating budget of the Water Authority's 
Water Resources Department. The Water Authority estimates its long-term 
financial needs based on the CIP and has adopted a 2-year budget cycle 
to address short-term funding and expenditures. Also, contingency 
measures have been identified should the Water Authority's costs to 
implement, monitor, and report on the NCCP/HCP's measures exceed the 
budgeted amount. The Water Authority maintains a diverse revenue base 
and consistently evaluates existing and potential revenue sources to 
ensure that funding of all Water Authority projects is adequate.
    The NCCP/HCP includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental 
take of the Covered Species, emphasizing project design modifications 
to protect Covered Species and their habitats. A monitoring and 
reporting plan would gauge the Plan's success based on achievement of 
biological goals and objectives and would ensure that conservation 
keeps pace with development. The NCCP/HCP also includes a management 
program, including adaptive management, which allows for changes in the 
conservation program if the biological species objectives are not met, 
or new information becomes available to improve the efficacy of the 
NCCP/HCP's conservation strategy.
    Covered Activities would include developing new water transmission, 
storage, and flow management facilities, in addition to conducting 
operation and maintenance activities. These Covered Activities fall 
under five categories, including:
    (1) Construction of Capital Improvement Program Facilities;
    (2) Operation and Maintenance Activities;
    (3) Right-of-Way Activities;
    (4) Urgent Repair Procedures; and
    (5) Emergency Repair Procedures.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The Draft EIR/EIS analyzes three alternatives in addition to the 
proposed action (i.e., permit issuance based on the Draft Water 
Authority NCCP/HCP) described above. The other alternatives include a 
no-action (i.e., no permit) alternative, a larger species list 
alternative, and a reduced plan area alternative. Two other 
alternatives were considered during the planning process, but were not 
evaluated in the Draft EIS, because neither met the purpose and need of 
both the Water Authority and the Service; these alternatives involved a 
no-take alternative and an alternative requiring the Water Authority to 
participate in other existing regional HCPs.

Public Comments

    The Service and Water Authority invite the public to comment on the 
Draft NCCP/HCP, Draft Implementing Agreement, and Draft EIR/EIS during 
a 90-day public comment period beginning the date of this notice. 
Please direct comments to the Service contact listed in the ADDRESSES 
section, and any questions to the Service contact listed in the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. Before including your address, 
phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information 
in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment--
including your personal identifying information--may be made publicly 
available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold 
your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Reasonable Accommodation

    The public meetings are physically accessible to people with 
disabilities. Please make requests for specific accommodations to Bill 
Tippetts, San Diego County Water Authority, at (858) 522-6784, at least 
5 working days prior to the meeting date.
    This notice is provided under section 10(a) of the Act and Service 
regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the application, associated 
documents, and comments submitted thereon to prepare a Final EIS. A 
permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the 
publication of the Final EIS and completion of the Record of Decision.

Alexandra Pitts,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2010-4468 Filed 3-3-10; 8:45 am]